By Mia Weber
Ginger Zee and Ben Aaron’s love story reads like a romantic comedy about opposites attracting in the Big Apple. She’s the Chief Meteorologist at ABC News (and a regular contributor on “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight”); he’s a reporter for NBC’s “New York Live” known for his big personality and goofy on-screen antics. She’s a transplant from Michigan; he’s Rockland County born and raised. She’s a thrill seeker; he’s admittedly neurotic. She was a finalist on “Dancing With The Stars;” he’s the star of a viral video about a faux fitness trend called “dance-walking.” And to tie it all up in only-in-New-York fashion: They met at a SoulCycle class.
Though they occupy different niches in broadcast and serve as yin-and-yang to one another, personality-wise, the telegenic pair are on the same wavelength on the most important things in life. For starters, they’re both obsessed with “Beverly Hills 90210” reruns. But beyond that, they’re in sync enjoying a happy marriage, their adorable 14-month-old son, Adrian, and flourishing careers in TV.
“I wonder [what it would be like] if I married someone who wasn’t in the business, because they wouldn’t get it. They’d be so sick of hearing about it, but for us, it’s fascinating to each other because we come from different worlds,” Aaron explains, adding with laugh: “Ginger’s a scientist; I’m an idiot.”
“In this business, there are going to be times when one person has a really crazy moment, and then you kind of settle down, and then somebody else [has their moment],” Zee adds. “It’s not competitive. It’s supportive and helpful.”
The pair have plenty to support each other on. Last year, soon after the couple welcomed their son, Zee, 36, embarked on her successful DWTS run with dancing partner Val Chmerkovskiy. In 2016 she also wrote and hosted a series for ABC News Digital called “Food Forecast” (which is about to enter its second season) which gives viewers an in-depth look at how weather and climate impacts food in specific locales. Zee is also currently writing a book about her life and a children’s book trilogy, both slated for release in 2018. Meanwhile, Aaron, 35, serves as a notably hands-on reporter for NBC’s “New York Live.” In fact, he writes, hosts, and edits all his segments singlehandedly, and he’s popular for his spontaneous and zany persona.
Coming up in June, Zee and Aaron have a four-episode series called “Renovation Realities: Ben & Ginger” airing on the DIY Network. Viewers will watch the couple bring their respective renovation talents to transform a house in Westchester that they intend to use as a weekend retreat or to potentially flip. Judging by the couple’s banter about what’s in store, it’s sure to be a hoot.
“I pitched a show called ‘Ben Sucks At Everything,’” Aaron explains with a smile, but in all seriousness. “We had been talking socially about buying a house—and [someone who knows him well] said: ‘That’s the show!’” Zee adds. “I had done houses before…but he’s never lived outside an apartment and never touched a hammer.” Aaron doesn’t miss a beat in corroborating: “I’m just this really frail, wussy New Yorker and I’m using these table saws.”
As the LOL-a-minute duo prepare for their close up, they’re also savoring the moment as new parents and keeping their eyes on the horizon professionally. We sat down with them on that one super-warm day in February (which, as a meteorologist, Zee assures was not actually a sign of the impending end of the world) to learn all about it.
When Ginger was pregnant, the two of you did an on-air gender reveal on GMA. Ben also includes Adrian in videos often. What’s it like to have such personal aspects of your life play out publicly?
Ginger Zee: I had fun and I enjoyed it. And you know what? I’ve never had more positive feedback than when I was pregnant. People love babies. There’s no happier joy in life than life.
Ben Aaron: I’ve been doing videos with Adrian since he was born, because he’s fun and because it’s just so enjoyable. People see him and every comment is “day made!” or
Adrian is 14 months old. What’s he like right now?
GZ: He’s very affectionate. It’s almost scary—because he’ll go to the library and he’ll kiss every kid, every dog, every everything.
BA: He smiles constantly, he’s always laughing. He’s the coolest kid to hang out with. You can hang out with him and it’s like hanging out with someone that’s your age… He’s my only friend. We had him so I could have friends.
What have the joys and challenges been in your first year as parents?
GZ: I’ve been so happy about how settled into it we’ve become very quickly. The first couple months are always hard when you’re figuring out a baby. That age is just hard. I don’t think anyone is like: “You know what? This is outstanding!” After that, you now have another love, another person that you interact with every single day, and a person that drives everything you do.
BA: But having time for yourself and disconnecting from the kid [is important]. And you might feel horribly guilty, and you will because you’re like: “I should be living for this kid!” But you need time with your significant other… And by yourself, as well! It’s really difficult because you feel so selfish, but meanwhile, if 99 percent of your day is dedicated to the kid, you have to take that moment for yourself where you either go to dinner with your loved one, or you just sit in a room and listen to Enya. Which I do. All the time.
Was there anything that surprised you about parenthood?
GZ: When they put that kid next to my cheek—I had a C-section so I couldn’t hold him—and when I felt his skin, that image and that feeling haunts me. It does. I think about it every day. It’s almost too much, too much love pouring out.
BA: The one thing that I didn’t expect, speaking of that moment—when you first see your kid, everyone’s always like: “Oh my God!”—well, they had a sheet covering Ginger’s lower half because they were operating and then they’re like: “Here he is!” And they lift Adrian over and he’s covered in everything, and it’s like: “Ugh!”
GZ: He looked like a really sad old man.
BA: He looked like Wallace Shawn from “The Princess Bride.” He’s like: “Inconceivable!” then he went back down.
GZ: He was so smooshed!
BA: But the love you feel—I always listen to my parents talk about unconditional love for my sister and I, and I was always like: “Okay, that’s great. I love you guys too.” But when you’re constantly afraid, every second of the day? Any time I’m away from him, I’m like: “What if there’s a strong gust of wind and he flies out of his stroller?”
What’s your parenting partnership like?
GZ: We haven’t gotten to the discipline stuff yet, so I don’t know how that will go… But I think we’ll complement each other well.
BA: [Ginger is] the good cop… I’m 100 percent bad cop. [Ginger is] definitely going to be calm and easy, and it’s going to be like: “Oh, don’t make me tell your father about that!” I’m going to be that guy. But right now, we have such a system, because he’s so scheduled, and with Ginger’s schedule and my schedule—we just have such a system with it.
GZ: The moments that I miss, that I’m always jealous of though, are the moments when Adrian wakes up…that’s when he’s so much fun and I’m gone already. On the weekends, I can’t wait. I get up before he wakes up. I’m just staring at him like: “Hello! Do you want to wake up now?”
Working in the same industry, how do you support each other’s careers?
GZ: I bounce ideas off of Ben all the time, I get ideas from him, I steal ideas from him all the time!
BA: Mind you, she’ll do it 40 times better than I do.
GZ: But it’s nice, too, because he understands it…and even though it’s not as fun, he understands my passion for meteorology—if there’s a big storm tomorrow and I have to leave…he gets it. He knows that’s important to me and he supports me through that.
Ginger, what do you enjoy most about your job at ABC?
GZ: [I love] the opportunity to do what I love and chase storms still. When I went to college, I was going there because I wanted to be a meteorologist. I thought I was going to be in the field and I thought I was going to be in storms, and then I started in television… TV often boxes you into a studio, but what GMA allows me to do is to explore the world. And I’ve been able to use that also as a platform to communicate science… At the end of every segment or every “Food Forecast” or anything I do related to ABC News, I want someone, especially young women, to be inspired about science and to learn.
BA: Ginger’s going to change the world.
Ben, tell us about your work with NBC and “New York Live.”
BA: I get into work and if I don’t have something planned I come up with an idea by 8am, I write it by 8:30am, I shoot it by 9:30am, and then I edit it by 11:30am. I do it all myself—I have a shooter with me, but everything’s done on the spot usually. It’s featured reports—so it’s anything that’s lighthearted and fun or social commentary.
GZ: It’s all the stuff that I think other people try to do, but Ben does it in a completely unique and funky way that nobody can do… It’s really cool and it’s all him, that’s the thing that nobody does. Nobody edits their own stuff except Ben.
BA: We did a piece about this guy who walks up and down the street and he dances… I was shooting another piece and he came up to me and started dancing and went on his way. Three days later, my boss was like: “We have a huge gap in the show and we need something.” So I’m like: “Alright, let’s make up this fake exercise [dance-walking]. Remember that guy we met?” And it went crazy epic. It changed my life. It went viral beyond viral. On Facebook, it has like 470,000 shares, which is like Justin Bieber numbers. And I still get, to this day, [people from] 70-80 different countries sending me their dance-walking videos that they do for charity.
GZ: You’re changing the world, too!
BA: Well, not intentionally…I do stupid stuff.
GZ: But it’s not stupid. The messages he gets are from people who have cancer who haven’t laughed in three weeks and his piece brought them joy. He gets those daily. He affects people in positive ways.
What can we expect from “Renovation Realities: Ben & Ginger” on DIY in June?
BA: This house sucks. It has nothing in it, the septic was bad, the well was bad, there’s an oil tank buried in the front yard. There’s no heat, and the electricity was absolutely God-awful… It smelled like a fish. So, we bought it and we had the best guys with us and they helped us and we did it all together and it was really special… We’re really experiencing it, and we’re screwing up.
GZ: That’s the fun of the show. There are a lot of people like Ben who have never touched a hammer.
BA: Ginger has a mind for [renovation]. She says things and the contractors are like: “That’s a really good idea!” So it’s a dichotomy of Ginger being so logical and understanding the technology behind building a house, and me just being a pillow with a jacket on.
Ginger, you also have some books in the works. A memoir, and a trilogy for middle-schoolers called Ginger Zee’s Storm Chaser.
GZ: I’m not important enough for a memoir and I’m way too messed up for a tell-all, so this is somewhere in between. It’s called Natural Disaster—I cover them and I am one! I don’t know how I got to this place because I’ve had a lot of crazy things happen. My career has been an outstanding ride but my personal life hasn’t always matched it. It’s a look into [my] life that would hopefully help someone else who’s maybe having a low point… But the other book, that’s the one that’s been even more challenging and more fun, because it’s for middle school-aged kids, and it’s a trilogy… It’s going to be all about the hyper-reality of a young woman who falls in love with storm chasing. It’s semi-autobiographical, obviously.
How are you feeling about life now as a family and as professionals? Are you focusing on goals or living in the present?
BA: We both live in the moment, but at the same time, you can’t help but look to the future… It’s not just us, like: “We’ll be fine. We can stay in this apartment for the rest of our lives!” No, we need space for Adrian to play and hang out.
GZ: I’m trying stay more in the moment… But I can’t say that my mind isn’t constantly thinking. Like right now, I have two episodes of “Food Forecast” to write and I have to go through the edits to my book. But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do all that. I wouldn’t be the best mom I could be to Adrian, and I wouldn’t be the best wife to Ben. I keep being me, but being me with even better people flanking me.
BA: Flanking! We try to flank at least twice a week. You can put that in the magazine…I just stand alongside of her, fully clothed.
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Check New York Family’s March/April cover with Ginger & Ben on “EXTRA!“